They came for us at nightfall.
Fear manifests itself in different ways for all of us. Some get sick to the stomach, others get weak in the knees. I feel fear in the tension of my scalp. When I get scared, the world slows down.
The world slowed to a stop last night.
The howling picked up again after nightfall. The source of it came from multiple directions and constantly shifted as if swirling slowly around us. But last night was different. I could feel it. The tension physically grew along my brow and I knew they were getting closer.
The howling built in intensity, to a storm like nothing I have ever heard. There was a violence in it. Trees in the distance creaked and groaned as if against a mighty wind. And then silence.
Every one of us had our weapons drawn. We kept our backs to the fire we had lit at dusk. It burned low. In our desperation for light we threw more wood and vines on the embers. This only caused it to sputter and smoke. I think the smoke may have been what saved us.
In that thick haze of ash and fear, the monsters attacked. They lunged from the undergrowth, reaching for us and clawing as they screamed. The smoke was what repelled them at first. Every time they breathed it in they recoiled with a hiss. They were hideous.
Like wretched, bent old men, yet covered in thick oily hair, they were unlike anything I had ever seen. They were ferocious. Even in that dim light I could see the hunger in their eyes. Each tooth in their gnashing grimace was as sharp as a dog’s. We didn’t sally forward, but rather remained within the protective shield of the smoke of our fire. It wasn’t to last, however, as in time the smoke began to clear.
The yelping and screaming grew and erupted to new heights, their frustration at this final impediment drove them to madness. Balthandar rammed his spear straight through the open mouth of one beast. Its own momentum carried it half-way up the shaft before it stopped, hatred yet gleaming in its dead eyes.
The creatures were visible up in the trees now, howling and hooting from the trunks above us. Then I heard the knocking.
I wouldn’t have noticed it if the monsters themselves hadn’t begun quieting down, but there was a distinct knocking noise coming from the north. Like a hollow stick hitting a rock to a steady rhythm. The monsters immediately dispersed in a flurry of howls and broken branches. Within moments we were surrounded by nothing save silence and trampled plants.
Moments later, as the knocking grew louder, a small man wrapped in an orange and blue sash appeared from the ferns.
“The flint on bamboo,” he said thoughtfully, as if to himself. “It drives them away, but I do not know why.”
“Who are you?” Bolton demanded of him immediately. None of us had lowered our weapons.
“I am called Bantish.” The man said with a smile. “And you, it would appear, are lost.”